Thursday, February 20, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


The sun filters through the lace curtains, lands on the doily no one is allowed to touch. The light bounces off the old, scrubbed mixing bowls. The light twists the sounds of the morning: chickens, grumbles, early morning throat clears and tired farts. The sounds of the world waking up.

On the table, beneath a layer of steam, there are wonders. There are biscuits, freshly made and topped with sausage grave and sunnyside eggs. There is bacon. There is a pan of crisped up potato, and there is a jug of orange juice next to the coffee. The orange juice is from concentrate. Everything else is fresh. 

There is a peach pie. This is the crowning glory. There it is, fresh and made from scratch. Around it, there are strips of leftover pie crust covered with sugar and cinnamon. Grandma called these pieces “Indian Strips” and when you’re young, you don’t think about what that means; where that name came from. You just eat until you’re too full to eat anymore. And then you go fishing.



You close your eyes and reality shifts. You are lost between two worlds, each viable, each filled with happiness, confusion, betrayal and regret.

You swim through the images in your mind, gasping. If you open your eyes, you will be forever lost, forever wandering, forever chasing what you think of as sleeping. You have convinced yourself of the veracity of dreams.

You are living multiple lies, and several trips back to the well can’t solve that. Returning to the source ain’t gonna work for you. You need to find your own idols to destroy, boy. This ain’t the scouts.

You try to tell the world your story, but the world. Don’t. Care. You try to find your old t-ball coach, but he’s. Not. There. You are corrupted, your files are compromised. You have stretched yourself between two worlds because you could not choose, and, in not choosing, you made the biggest mistake of all.

To sleep. Perchance to never wake again.



There are broken songs in the corners of the room, shards of rhyme and meter. You cast them away from you, but you only change their form. They will live in snippets that get locked into you; they will end up in the legs of your old trousers; whole choruses will hide under piles of dirty laundry.

There is heartbreak oozing from the pages that fill up your bookcase. Your computer is shouting at you. You are lost in a maze of self-doubt and haunting melody. You are facing a barren wasteland.

Outside, there is sun and hope. Inside, there are old food dishes and movie snippets. They dance around the middle school memories that stalk you in your sleep. You can learn so much about yourself from the traumas that you keep.

The TV wants you to know that you are alone. The New Yorker gives you more than you could ever need to read. The food you eat will keep you from dying. What more could you ask for?



  1. Ah, how I love these small gems. The first made me smell peach pie, and the closing brought me right back to the sea of ignorance we swim in. And Sadness is my favorite of the three. How deftly you paint the picture with anthropomorphism, and how hollow the last single word makes me feel. Well told, sir.

    1. Agree...these are beautiful gems with detail I can smell and taste and feel. I want bacon now. "Sadness" hit me in the chest. Every fragment.

    2. These are like a number of literary amuse bouche; a selection of bite-sized confections that are flawlessly artful and precise. I loved the pie, but then I always do, but you were equally accurate on the other two too. Sadness was the one which was the real killer though; you've the surest touch with emotions.

  2. The Tree

    “Do you remember, the night we met?”

    “You were so mysterious. ‘Meet me under the tree,’ you said.”

    “This very tree. How did you know which tree I was talking about?”

    “I don’t know. When you said it, this tree just popped into my mind.”

    “How easily we talked that first night.”

    “And every night thereafter.”

    “Do you remember the moon was full that night? And how we joked about it being made of cheese, and how I showed you the man in the moon?”

    “I do.”

    “And then the acorn that fell from the tree. I’ve always figured I owed a debt to a squirrel for that.”

    “It startled me.”

    “And you pressed against me…”

    “And you kissed me.”

    “Someone was playing Glenn Miller and the music floated out their window…”

    “And you asked me to dance…”

    “And we did.”

    “And when the moon set and the sun rose…”

    “I asked you to marry me.”

    “I wonder if this tree has been witness to many such impetuous romances.”

    “I’d like to think of it as our tree alone.”

    “I’m sure others would think the same.”

    “Would you dance with me?”

    “I’d love to.”

    Out of the ether, Glenn Miller and his orchestra struck up a tune, and they Missouri waltzed away on moonlight and memories.

    1. Aww... So touching. I want to hug that tree.

    2. This was so very sweet and effortless, Leland. You're a true romantic, that's for certain.

    3. I love this Leland. I love when his story can be deftly told in dialogue. So hard to do well. This is lyrical, yet rings true and seems realistic. I could hear it.

  3. "You're thinking of how amazing this car will look outside your house? And of how jealous your neighbours will all be? They'll be driving their robot-built station wagons while you'll be sitting here in an artisan-built one of a kind. You know they'll be feeling inadequate every time you pass their homes, with the thunder of your twin exhausts shaking their windows. And then when you're on the highway, you'll be the dominant force, leaving them in the dust as you rocket off toward the horizon. You already know that you need this car and that buzz you'll get when you stamp your foot down into the floor, the sound of its five hundred horses screaming defiance. I'm not saying you'll not get ticketed for speeding if you do that, but there's not one police cruiser in the county that'll be able to catch you, not as long as you've still got gas in your tank and a clear road ahead of you both."

    "I don't know. I was looking for something a little smaller. Something more economical. You got something I can park more easily? A car I can drive in the city? I'll need more space in the back too, somewhere where I can fit an aged relative. I can't put my Mom in the front seat; she's an uneasy passenger."

    "It's not going to be ideal, but you're thinking too small. You can buy a Japanese shoe-box anytime. A car like this is an investment, even if you never drive it. Just driving it into your garage would be like putting cash into a vault. You could auction it a year from now and make an extra twenty thou, maybe even more than that. I know people who know other people, and I know there'll always be a market for a car such as this. And then you can buy that other car with the profits that you'll make, getting that compact you seem intent now on for free. And in the meantime, you'll be enjoying a thoroughbred, driving a genuine piece of art. And your mother can remain perfectly safe, inside her home, practising her macrame. You mentioned that she's nervous; what better way is there to show her how much you care? You can take the pressure off her, putting yourself in the driving seat, both figuratively and literally, while enjoying the benefits of a superior vintage car. You owe it to yourself, sir; you'd be making a mistake passing up on an opportunity such as this. But you'll have to make your mind up very soon: there are other people I know who're interested, some of them with an abundance of cash to spare. Not that any of them will genuinely enjoy the car, I might add. Not one of them has the panache you have or your skill sitting behind the wheel. It'd be a travesty, I think, but you can prevent all that. All you have to do is sign where I showed you, putting your name there above the line."

    1. I love this war. Both sides, so persuasive. I wonder which force will win.

    2. Not your usual plaid-jacketed salesman... this was a delight (though painful to the wallet) read.

    3. Ha! This made me feel exactly like I feel when shopping for cars. I get the poor man sell, but the psychology is the same. Well written my friend.

  4. From a promt:
    It was June and it was hot, when on board the ship we got...

    ...air conditioning in the halls and walkways, but nothing outside to ease the sweat of brows. It was time to either hit the cruise pool or the smelly casino.

    I thought to myself, Ya know what, self?

    What? my self replied.

    I'm thinking, I thought to myself, that I'm too lazy for this.

    And? my self replied.

    I'm thinking maybe it's for a nap on the comfy bed in that tiny, tiny coffin they call a berth.

    Scotch on rocks first? my self asked.

    Self, I thought, that sounds like a fine idea!

    1. I'm ready for an adult beverage and a nap!

    2. What better way to survive a difficult sea crossing; the swiftest of measures and an effortless glide into the future. Great writing, Ann!

    3. I suspect a number of passengers on the Corona virus flotilla would agree with this! I love the internal dialogue that is so honest.

    4. I dig the reflective conversation. There's also a really pretty rhythm to the language.

  5. Part 1

    Selma had come late to the church, unfashionably late, because of traffic and parking and a terrible accident involving her pantyhose and the neighbor’s dog. Why she’d even worn pantyhose is a mystery to her now, as she doesn’t remember the last time she’d done so, as if anyone would care about her manner of dress but the woman in the casket, whom she hasn’t seen in years. She wrestles out of the car without further damage, clatters to the front door in heels she’s also grown unaccustomed to, then stops, breath frozen.

    The damn door.

    The closed, massive, accusing door. The polished wood and brass sentry was punishment in itself for her often casual relationship with time, the creak of its old hinges like the pointed stare of a displeased nun.

    Footsteps scrape up the concrete stairs behind her. Saved. She lets out her breath, grateful not to be the sole latecomer shamed by the door. But then she sees him. Oscar. Older, fleshier, grayer.

    “Sorry for your loss,” he mumbles, eyes briefly downcast, his smile a flat testament to tempered pleasure, a soft hand on her upper arm. “The years have been kind to you, Selma.”

    If she were a cat, her tail would be swishing the floor behind her, slowly, so slowly. If they’d been in any other situation she would have flung his hand off and stormed away. Like she’d been tempted to do the last time she saw him. Which, she remembers, was at this very church.

    “Let’s just sit.” She reaches for the handle, swallows hard, bracing herself for the door’s judgment.

    “Please, let me.”

    Selma tries to scoot behind Oscar. But he does that thing some men of his generation tend to do in times like these. Opening the door, easing her in front of him, steering her in with a palm on the small of her back as if she couldn’t fathom which direction to go on her own. Her eyes narrow so fast a rocket of pain shoots up her temple. Maybe it was from clenching her jaw against the opening of the door. Or the mortification of being late to her own sister’s funeral.

    Or having to see him again.

    1. Part 2

      The groan is overwhelmed by a swell of canned organ music, which diverts attention from the latecomers. She slinks into an empty pew in the back. To Selma’s dismay he slides in beside her. But they haven’t been totally overlooked. From the front row, they get an evil-eyed glare over the shoulder of her younger sister Amy. She probably arrived early, flanked by her handsome husband and two perfect children, and saved a seat for her. Better to stay put and ignore Oscar than change seats now.

      Oscar’s hands brace the tops of his knees as if for takeoff. His face looks grayer in the funereal light. He stares straight at the open casket, his lips working but nothing coming out. Maybe a prayer. They could all use one.

      “I loved her, you know. It wasn’t just some fling—”

      As if that made it better. “Time and place, Oscar,” she hisses as the priest steps up to the pulpit.

      “Sure. Sure.” His fingers whiten with pressure. They sit silent as the priest talks generically of life and death and the kingdom of heaven, then of a woman Selma doesn’t recognize, so different from the conniving and selfish Rose she used to know. He speaks of her goodness and generosity. But what else is he to say, really, when the family has stepped away from the church years ago, when Amy is his only witness to their sister’s life? It always catches her around the heart to learn that the three of them have such different versions of the childhood they shared. To learn how far Amy is willing to go to make them all look like saints.

      When it’s over Selma stands, gazing at what she can see of her sister’s preserved face. No doubt they made her beautiful. But she always had been beautiful. Amy was the good girl; Selma was the smart one; and Rose was like her namesake, complete with thorns. Part of Selma wants to move forward, be the bigger person, but a part aches to sneak out and find the nearest bar. Again Oscar places that hand on her back. This time it feels less like a tiller and more proprietary. She wheels on him.

      “No. You’re no longer my husband and you no longer have that right. Frankly, you have balls to even show up here.”

      Oscar’s face droops. He backs away, palms raised, and fades into the exiting crowd.

      Selma, steading her nerves, ventures forward.

    2. The characterisation in this is spot-on. You're so very able in your writing here and I could see this exactly as you've written it. Fabulous writing, Laurie!

    3. Into the inner thoughts of every family funeral. The subtle descriptions of place, of movements, of action. You've done it beautifully. I can almost smell the incense.

    4. I love the way your sentence is built. Rising tension and scale. It's really powerful.

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  7. Sea-Petal lay stunned on the beach. She was hazy-headed and confused; her vision blurred so nothing seemed real. Waves were lapping gently across the flukes of her tail, but she still crawled landward, an imperative driving her away from her home. Maybe it was an instinct prompted by her injury or a fear of motorised vessels; whatever it was, it wouldn't be helpful if it persisted for long. Even now, she was growing weaker, dragging herself slowly on her elbows. Her time was running out as was the light in the day.

    She woke again in the gloom, a bitter taste in her mouth. Lifting her head, she touched her wound, crying out from the pain. There was a long, bloodied gash across her brow and open sores along her back, competing with the bruises which were beginning to bloom, blues, purples and lilacs covering her torso. There were unknown stars up above her, strange anemones, misplaced from the ocean, their colours shimmering as they blazed across the sky. The sea was far away, now a whisper in the distance. She was alone in the dark and slowly dying.

    "Hello, hello. What's this? Excuse me, ma'am. Are you hurt?"

    The man smelled of corruption, chemicals and meat, and she shied away from him, curling, fetus-like into a comma. He was one of those people, the ones with the ships with the whirling blades; a ravager of the oceans and everything within. His words were nonsensical, even though they were filtered by the air; the same air that was slowly killing her, refusing to help her live.

    If only there was a way she could communicate with him. Reason with him, before he killed her. She could only hope he was merciful, for Poseidon's sake.

    1. Lovely and terrible. The mermaids are always the ones who suffer.

    2. Man. As a fisherman, this was a little hard for me to read. Not gonna lie. I haven't killed fish in a long time though!


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